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DID Hosts Design Workshop with Detroit Students

Students Looking at Design Presentation

Empathy. Problem-solving. Brainwriting.

These may not be the first words naturally associated with the word “design.” In some communities, design may be seen as elusive, elite, or irrelevant. However, for a small group of UPrep students at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit who participated in a DID-sponsored design workshop, they now have a better understanding of the power and prominence of design.

Alice Coleman and Juan Castro of DID member company Rightpoint led a group of 15 students in a two-hour workshop on the design process. As part of DID’s ongoing commitment to Detroit students, this workshop is the first of many to come alongside DID’s Designed By youth design fests.

“We wanted to do a workshop with the students rather than, you know, just having them listen to us lecture or not really get to participate,” said Coleman. “Because many of the students attended Designed By, they had a familiarity of what you can do with [design] but maybe not so much of how design is a tool and how businesses have used it. That’s the angle we took, and we walked them through the design thinking process, giving them a central question to solve and practicing every step including empathy work, ideating, and prototyping.”

Inside the Workshop

The question at the center of the day’s activities: How can we make life less polarizing as high school students?

Students were then split into groups to role play and discuss. The goal was to collect information and perform qualitative research.

Students asked each other questions about what they think, what they feel, how they interact with the issue at hand, pain points, what they might enjoy about it, and more.

Students gather at a table making notes and drawings while "brainwriting".

The group then came together to ideate and put a technique called “brainwriting” into practice. Students wrote and doodled their observations and suggestions onto Post-it notes, reviewed them as a group, then refined their ideas further.

A student writes ideas on a whiteboard.

Each group presented their ideas and came to a consensus on a winning solution to the problem at hand. The solution was an easy choice for the group.

“There was an affinity of getting people together,” said Coleman. “They concluded that they needed to have conversations and bring people together to break down walls and make everything less polarizing.”

The empathy piece of the equation was made clear – you must understand who you are designing for and their behavior before you create a solution that works for the majority. Students learned the value of this key piece of design, especially when it comes to particularly sensitive subjects.

“You have to make people comfortable and heard…and a lot of times the issue is that you just don’t know that other person yet,” said one of students.

The workshop wrapped up with discussions of how this solution might come to life, how to prototype, and how to test it.

“I hadn’t been in a classroom with kids in a while, and it’s so refreshing to see people soaking up what you’re teaching them. For me, it was rewarding that they were interested and engaged,” said Coleman.

Alice Coleman and Juan Castro in discussion.

The workshop was a great start but certainly won’t be the last. DID will continue to offer opportunities to share our learnings and make it easier for other designers or design companies to bring these activations to their local schools.

We’re extremely proud of the people who helped make this student workshop a success, and we’re excited to see it grow and open the minds of more creative young people to the world of possibilities that exist within a career in the design field.

Next stop, our second edition of Designed By returns this September in Detroit!

To get involved with DID’s workshops or Designed By youth design fests in Detroit, contact

Posted: 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Tags: #designworkshop #detroit

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